OZR Backup mandate: Teeth Tell Time: defining social age in childhood using vitamin D deficiency

Project Details


Age is one of the crucial parameters needed for the study of past populations as it serves as a baseline to interpret age-related patterns. However, age has different meanings, whereby biological age refers to skeletal changes (e.g. growth), chronological age to time that has passed (e.g. years), and social age to attitude (e.g. behaviour). Most studies on human remains focus on the link between biological and chronological age, but do not consider the social aspect of age. The meaning of social age differs cross- culturally and its significance in various populations is still poorly understood. Vitamin D deficiency can be used to reconstruct parts of the behaviour that is attributed to a certain social age. This study investigates the relationship between biological/chronological and social age in various Belgian and Dutch populations from the Medieval period onwards by evaluating vitamin D deficiency in burnt and unburnt human remains. The teeth will be evaluated for this disease in the period from birth to adulthood. The obtained information can be used to infer social age during this time period and enables the assessment of changes in the definition of social
age throughout time that will contribute to the debate on the meaning and development of the concept of childhood and aid in the reconstruction of the social organisation of past societies.
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/22

Flemish discipline codes

  • Bioarchaeology
  • Archaeology of the Low countries or Belgium


  • Social age
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • childhood